Birth Of The Wristwatch...

The Genesis of the modern wristwatch is an incredible story spanning almost 150 years.  The actual creator for the invention of the first wristwatch is unknown, due to poor record keeping.  However, with the Invention of Automation and the availability of smaller watches it was only a matter of time before they became available to wear on the wrist.  There were two problems facing the wristwatch from reaching the mainstream: Smaller watches in the 19th century were not accurate, and the more reliable pocket watch was established as the dominant fashion timekeeping icon.  

 

Wristwatches in the 19th century were more novelty than necessity.  Smaller pendant and lapel watches were worn by women, and some companies entertained the idea of making watches to wear on the wrist for women. But men still stuck with the tradition of the pocket watch, since "wristlets" as they were called were considered feminine. One of the more entertaining quotes of the time that I've read about clearly shows a 19th century gentleman's take on the new idea of wearing a watch on the wrist:

 

"I would rather wear a skirt, than a wristwatch"

 

                                                     

 

Equipped with cutting edge "damp proof" case...

 

Wars weren't fought as they had previously been done.  New technologies like the machine gun and more efficient  artillery made casualties go from hundreds to thousands per day in the great war.  Men were fighting each other in dug holes in the ground.  It was gritty, the condiditions terrible, and going "over the top" to fight meant that death was always close by.  The pocket watch had served its purpose up to this point but as many soldiers found, pulling out your watch to read the time and holding a rifle was not very ergonomic.  Timed attacks on enemy positions became an everyday event, and when you had to deal with your pocket watch it just wasn't making the cut anymore.  

 

At this point, a few swiss companies that had began pushing this new technology before the start of the war were in prime position to make bank. Since they were right near the action, production of these watches exploded and those who couldn't get their hands on one since they were sort of in a combat zone had a local jeweler solder on wire lugs to their pocket watch.  

 

Early designs for wristwatches varied since it was still in a wild west phase.  the design that we hold true to on the website, is one of the earliest configurations for a trenchwatch.  However they were also positioned in the conventional way that is seen today.  By 1915, "campaign watches" were not an oddity to see on the battlefield anymore and were being outfitted with almost all soldiers in combat on both sides.  

 

 

Watches worn on the wrist had been tested in combat before the great war, most notably in Great Britain's Boer War.  Some soldiers were issued early military wrist watches, and their impact was immediately recognized.  Combat evolved with the wristwatch, since military strategy was becoming more important than bringing more people to the fight, it was now all about timing rather than numbers. Testimony from British soldiers about their watches was positive, proved essential for combat.  But this only gave the wristlet limited exposure.  

 

The mentality of wearing a watch on the wrist would soon change in the early 20th century.  The world was becoming more mechanized, and heating up for one of the most terrible events ever endured: A world war... 

AN original 1915 omega officers trench watch...

in 1918 the war thankfully ended. soldiers went back home, and with them came their little trenchwatches.  The trenchwatch had been tried in battle and now was something not left at home.  The soldiers who became civilians stood by their watches worn on the wrist and a new market in the "wrist watch" was born.  Wire lugs remained on watches until the early 20's, when the modern watch lug with a spring bar was invented.  A small invention that was crucial to so many soldiers became an essential tool to all people.  our friend the pocket watch fell out of fashion and the wrist watch became the smartphone of its time.  watches became waterproof when a fledgling company called rolex when it released the oyster in 1926. Hamilton released the first electric watch in 1957, and today we have just emerged into an age of digital smart watches.  its incredible to think this all started just a little over 100 years ago with some wire, leather, and a small pocket watch.  

The Design of the trenchwatch was simple and yet elegant for the time: A small pendant watch usually a 0 or 6 size was used since it was small enough to fit on the wrist, two pieces of wire were added to the case, and a small band of leather was used to secure it to the users wrist.  The cases of the early watches varied, usually they were made of a chrome plate or of solid silver.  This was to ensure that the watch case did not rust due to the terribly damp conditions in the trenches.  The dials were usually porcelain and the crystals on the watch were made of glass.  If the owner had a little bit more to spend on their watch, optional "shrapnel guards" were available.  These mounted over the face of the watch, giving it the appearance that it had its own armor.